Dried pasta and canned beans are vegetarian pantry staples for a reason: They are often the backbone of quick, tasty and satisfying meatless cooking. But if the sight of another box of rigatoni makes your eye twitch, or the thought of strolling down an aisle of cannellini beans triggers your fight-or-flight response, maybe it’s time to mix things up. Below are a baker’s dozen of vegetarian recipes that are light and filling all at once, featuring plenty of vegetables as well as the occasional tofu and whole grain — and they’re all worthy of a spot in your rotation. And if you’re looking for more recipes like these, sign up for The Veggie, New York Times Cooking’s new weekly newsletter dedicated to the expansive and delicious world of vegetarian cooking.
Eric Kim’s critically acclaimed eggplant recipe — just look at that five-star average rating! — makes the most of pantry staples and just two ingredients from the produce aisle. Salty, spicy and sweet, these tender vegetables pack more flavor than the simple ingredients list would suggest. Just grab some tissues before you dig in: “I’m weeping, this is so good,” commented one reader.
Tejal Rao is always asking smart questions, like, “How does grating tomato make it taste so much more delicious?” and “Can you swap cheese in for the bread in pan con tomate?” The answers are: “magic” and “yes.” In her recipe, lightly fried paneer takes a plunge in sweet and acidic tomato pulp for a dish that’s summery and satisfying.
Recipe: Paneer con Tomate
Dusting thick-cut portobello mushrooms with smoky spices and roasting them at a high heat creates a surprisingly hearty filling that’s perfect for pitas. That’s exactly what Alexa Weibel does in this recipe, pairing the boldly seasoned slices with red cabbage and a simple yogurt sauce as brightly colored as a sunflower.
Charred until soft and drowned in a saucy and slightly spicy guisado, edible cactus paddles pair well with the best tortillas you can find. In her recipe for nopales, Jocelyn Ramirez sprinkles the dish with pepitas, flaky salt and cilantro for a little crunch and a lot of freshness.
Tomatoes and corn may be in abundance now, but summer’s bounty always feels short-lived. Start preparing for the colder months ahead by saving recipes that rely on heartier vegetables, like this soup from Melissa Clark. With her recipe, you can play root vegetable D.J., mixing and mashing rutabagas and parsnips or carrots and celery root.
Recipe: Any Vegetable Soup
This one-pan wonder from Yewande Komolafe is ideal for the days when you’d like something filling but not too heavy. Firm, nutrient-rich plantains will hold their shape and texture as they absorb the flavors of the tomatoey stew around them. And the dish is easily adaptable, too: Medium-firm or soft tofu would taste as delicious as eggs.
Chewy and filling whole grains make a great accompaniment to quickly stir-fried, crisp-tender green beans. In this recipe, Colu Henry tops the dish with a nutty and herbaceous gremolata that would add texture and freshness to just about any other salad you could throw it on. A little lemon juice or white wine vinegar ties everything together.
Feel free to incorporate finely shredded raw vegetables or even leftover cooked ones in this forgiving recipe for Korean scallion pancakes, adapted by Melissa Clark from the chef Sohui Kim. Pajeon is a great vehicle for whatever produce is lingering in the crisper, and they come together quickly enough to be dinner on any weeknight.
A platter of perfectly roasted vegetables arranged around an expertly emulsified aioli for dipping is a meal that is equal parts elegant and humble. Make Melissa Clark’s recipe, which calls for a mix of cruciferous and root vegetables, as well as squash, for a small group of guests or for a party of one.
This curry featuring mushrooms, snow peas and tofu relies on two pantry workhorses to ensure dinner’s on the table in just 30 minutes: jarred or canned curry paste and coconut milk. A quick tip on stretching out what’s left in the can, courtesy of Melissa Clark: You can either store the leftover curry paste in a jar topped with a little oil in the fridge, or you can freeze it. You can also freeze leftover coconut milk in ice cube trays for popping into future lunches or dinners.
Recipe: Coconut Red Curry With Tofu
Hetty McKinnon’s version of this quintessential Cantonese dish uses fresh corn instead of the more traditional canned cream corn, lending sweetness that’s balanced but bright. Cold silken tofu is sandwiched between the warm creamed corn and steamed rice, creating distinct layers of contrasting temperatures and textures.
Think of this recipe from Sarah Copeland as a trail map to deliciousness from which there are plenty of detours available. You’ll need some crunchy stalks like celery or fennel, more crunchy vegetables like snap peas or radishes, and some sturdy greens like chard or spinach — but the specifics are completely up to you. Once you have your vegetables, the dish comes together quickly with the help of some flavorful pantry staples.
Recipe: Any Vegetable Stir-Fry